Kind of the reverse of Michael Jordan and Kobe/Shaq, I think. Lebron breezes to the Finals every year because the teams in the East aren’t that tough – but his Finals opponents have been formidable. The 2014 Spurs and 2017 Warriors are two of the best teams in NBA history. Jordan/Kobe had a much tougher time going to the Finals (hence why they lost before the Finals so often), but once they were there they had a pretty easy time. No one would consider the 1992 Trailblazers an all time great team – nor would they consider the 2001 76ers or 2002 Nets or 2009 Magic an all time great team. This is part of the reason why Jordan (6–0) and Kobe’s (5–2) Finals records look much better than Lebron’s.
I would revise it to mean history of NBA, not basketball. And even then I don’t think its that clear cut. Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time (GOAT) to most people because he’s a winner (6 championships, no losses in the finals), he’s super competitive, he has 5 MVPs (most out of any guard), he plays in a way that makes him electrifying to watch with lots of high flying dunks and clutch plays, he has the most awards out of any player in the modern era (6 Finals MVPs in addition to the stuff above and 10 scoring titles , DPOY, etc). Plus because people love scoring so much, he’s the penultimate scorer. The highest scoring average in NBA history both in regular season and playoffs. The most complete guard ever. Marketing wise no one else compares, Jordan earns millions a year despite the fact that he’s been retired for over 10 years. He’s the most famous basketball player still to this day.
That makes him an easy choice for GOAT for the majority of people.
There’s 4 other players that could possibly be considered the GOAT though this is for the minority of people:
Wilt Chamberlain – numerous unbroken records, most average rebounds a game, most rebounds all time, led league in assists once, rebounds 11 times, scoring 7 times, FG% several times, averaged 45 minutes a game, 100 points in a game, averaged 50 points and 25 rebounds a game before, etc. For pure statistical dominance, Wilt is at the top.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – all time NBA leading scorer, consistently great for 20 years, 6 rings, 6 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs 14 years apart, 3rd in rebounds and blocks. He has the championship pedigree of Jordan and stats that are not quite Wilt-like but close to it.
Bill Russell – the consummate winner. 11 rings in 13 seasons. 5 MVPs. The greatest defensive player ever. the first african-american coach. The first black superstar in the league. One of the greatest teammates you can ever have. The thing that holds Russell back is his lack of offense, so he can’t really be called a ‘complete’ player like the other guys on this list.
Lebron James – modern era dominance, 8 Finals in a row, makes whatever team he’s on championship calibre, has a ridiculously long prime (pretty much the same as Jordan his entire career is his prime), excels in every category scoring rebounding assists etc. 4 MVPs, 3 rings, 3 finals mvps. The only thing that prevents Lebron from being the GOAT I think is his amount of awards that still trails Jordan. Stats wise you could make arguments that he’s surpassed Jordan in several areas already, but the amount of rings and other awards just aren’t there yet.
So yes to the majority of people, Jordan is the GOAT. the other guys are too old for this generation, weren’t marketed back in their time, and Lebron hasn’t matched up to Jordan in the key category of championships.
Wilt reaching up to block Kareem’s skyhook
Garnett vs Magic
Vince Carter and Hakeem
Lebron vs Karl Malone
Dirk and Rodman
Stockton and Yao
Curry vs Iverson
Magic vs Shaq
Lebron and Shaq
Connie Hawkins with the Lakers
Pete Maravich with the Celtics
Kobe vs Jordan
Rick Barry playing with the Rockets
Kareem, Russell and Muhammed Ali
Shaq, Pierce, Allen, Rondo and Garnett
Barkley, Pippen and Hakeem
Kobe, Gasol, Dwight, Nash
Iverson and Melo
Malone, Kobe, Shaq and Payton
Ewing with the Supersonics
Bob McAdoo with the Lakers
Dominique Wilkins as a Celtic
Larry bird with Pete Maravich
Dave Cowens with the Bucks
Moses Malone with the Spurs
George Gervin on the Jordan Bulls
Artis Gilmore on the Bulls
George McGinnis on the 76ers with Dr J
Mel Daniels, the first Pacers superstar
George Mikan grabbing a rebound
Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman holding each other
Marques Johnson and Bob Lanier
Adrian Dantley on the Bad Boy Pistons
Nate Thurmond battling Kareem
Walt Frazier against Earl Monroe
Willis Reed vs Wes Unseld
Elgin Baylor goes over a young John Havlicek with a hook shot
Bill Walton tries to stop Kareem’s Skyhook
Dolph Schayes going for a dunk
Jason Kidd vs Steve Nash
Tim Duncan vs Garnett
Jerry West vs Oscar Robertson
Bob Pettit going for a layup
Tiny Archibald throws a pass to Larry Bird